Michael Kingston: Work-life balance and street cred

Michael Kingston (Cohort 2015) moved from Melbourne to regional Northern Territory to teach at MacKillop Catholic College. Three years later, he’s still living and teaching in the Territory, and recently caught up with us about “the zone”, work-life balance and street cred with his students.

What have you been up to since finishing the program?

First year out I decided to stay at my Teach For Australia placement school, MacKillop in Palmerston (NT). It was awesome to already be established at a school and have built a rapport with the kids. I also had some amazing opportunities like leading a student-group to Botswana and having my Yr. 8’s run an op-shop business.

This year I moved down the road to teach Yr. 8 at Palmerston College, the local public middle school. I believe in quality public education and always saw myself as a public system educator. It’s been invigorating and challenging to start at a new school. It’s reaffirmed my love for the art of classroom management, middle school education and curriculum development more broadly.

What’s the biggest highlight of your week?

It’s always a teaching highlight when we get “in the zone” as a class. Sometimes this is Monday morning, sometimes Wednesday midday, sometimes even Friday arvo Humanities. The “zone” is those moments where the class is working together as one, learning and helping each other and the atmosphere is positive, enthusiastic and supportive. Weekends camping, hiking and fishing in the beautiful Top End aren’t too bad either as far as highlights go.

What’s been one of your biggest challenges?

Building a sustainable work-life balance has been crucial and some weeks this is still a work-in-progress. I credit a supportive girlfriend, team sports and a love for the outdoors as instrumental in avoiding the “black hole” of endless work. For me, teaching is a job where your work ethic and drive to see improvement in your class can lead to “mountains beyond mountains” of work. I’m increasingly learning to enjoy the journey and understand that the “classroom ideal” of being a rigorously data-informed teaching wizard with students enjoying tremendous growth every day takes many years of honing the craft.

What are you most looking forward to in 2018?

This year, alongside my work with the motley crews of 8F and 8H in English and Humanities at Palmo College (represent) I’m working on a curriculum project, “Growth Through the Middle Years.” The project grew out of many hours searching for quality, engaging and rigorous resources specifically made for middle years students, especially those disengaged, struggling with school and years behind academically (who I often find myself teaching). I increasingly view curriculum as the “missing link” to these students reconnecting with their education and experiencing meaningful growth.

“Growth Through the Middle Years” currently exists on the awesome website called Teacher Pay Teacher and I’m currently working to grow the enterprise by teaching, testing and offering more resources, collaborating with more amazing teachers on creating resources and seeking feedback.

Tell us something we don’t know about you.

I lived in Mexico in another lifetime and I’m still cashing in on the street cred with the kids (apparently Mexico is “lit”). Sometimes I can also touch my head and clap twice before I catch in silent ball (also “lit”).

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